-- / --
This context for the arguments developed here is provided separately in In Quest of Engaging Values: context of the Human Values and Wisdom Project (2008). The argument here introduces that in a subsequent document Topology of Valuing: psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations (2008). The latter document contains the References for all three. The argument of all three is summarized in a final paper (Embodying Values Dynamically through Alternation: integrating sets of polarized static values through indicative metaphor, 2008). The exploration was undertaken as a contribution to a Panel on Ethics and Policies for Sustainable Futures (Hyderabad, 2008) of the World Academy of Art and Science.
The focus here is on the global systemic structure of any set of values or ethics and its necessary isomorphism and resonance with a society that is global in ways additional to the conventional geopolitical perspective -- as a global knowledge society.This exploration is associated with related studies of the relevance of "polyhedral" structures to governance (Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors, 2008; Polyhedral Pattern Language: software facilitation of emergence, representation and transformation of psycho-social organization, 2008; Configuring Global Governance Groups: experimental visualization of possible integrative relationships, 2008).
Any study of human values or systems of ethics (such as that mentioned in the earlier paper In Quest of Engaging Values: context of the Human Values and Wisdom, 2008) can but raise the question of how sets of values -- the "values of civilization" -- are "held" or "upheld" at the global level. They are indeed variously held, and "defended", by such as the following:
An indication of Key American Values, provided for international students, lists: Individualism and Privacy, Equality, Informality, Future change (and progress), Goodness of Humanity, Time, Achievement (action, work, and materialism), Directness and Assertiveness. In a defining moment, on the occasion of the Democratic Convention at the time of writing, Michele Obama focused on American values, without idenitying them (Wife stresses Obama’s American values, 25th August 2008). These are presumably interwoven with the elusive subtleties of the "American Dream", notably as seen from a European perspective (American values in comparison with ours, the American dream, 2007).
If you asked most Americans what the cultural values in the U.S. are, you might get some blank stares, or a statement of some basic beliefs. The question may seem simple, but the answer is quite complex. In a society as highly diverse as the United States, there is likely to be a multitude of answers. American culture has been enriched by the values and belief systems of virtually every part of the world. Consequently, it is impossible to be comprehensive. Nevertheless, a few selected values are at the core of the American value system.
Especially curious is the manner in which values are widely associated with "rights" and not with "responsibilities" (presumably "unvalued") -- an exception being the OAS Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. Various attempts to establish "declarations of responsibilities" have been essentially unsuccessful (as discussed in Universal Declaration of Responsibilities of Human Intercourse, 2007 and in Universal Declaration of Patent Responsibilities, 2007). Arguably "our rights" and "their responsibilities" are appreciatively valued by "us", whereas "their rights" and "our responsibilities" tend to be valued problematically by us.
An unusual, and potentially questionable, feature of the "pillar" metaphor is the implication that the values are somehow "cast in stone" for all time. Of particular interest in India (the location of the meeting at which this paper is presented) are the renowned Pillars of Ashoka erected by the Mauryan king Ashoka during his reign in the 3rd century BCE; these are a series of columns dispersed throughout the northern Indian subcontinent (with the southernmost having been discovered at Amaravati). Many of the pillars are carved with proclamations reflecting Buddhist teachings: the Edicts of Ashoka. This initiative had been preceded by that of Hammurabi (1795 – 1750 BCE), first king of the Babylonian Empire, whose code of law, the Code of Hammurabi, was inscribed on a stele in a public place. It is cited as the first example of the legal concept that some laws are so fundamental as to be beyond the ability of even a king to change.
The pillar metaphor used by the EU has been used by Sohail Inayatullah (Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming, Foresight, 2008). These pillars are: mapping, anticipating, timing, deepening, creating alternatives, and transforming. As with the "pillars" of the EU, such language raises the question as to the degree to which values are implicit in the categories identified. In his value-based strategic concern with the future, "to help people to recover their agency, and help them to create the world in which they wish to live", Inayatullah also describes six "foundational concepts" (the used future, the disowned future, alternative futures, alignment, models of social change, and uses of the future) and six "questions" (will, fear, missing, alternatives, wish, and next steps as related to the future).
Presumably to be considered as intimately related to values is the effort to define and manage individual identity through "pillars of identity" (seemingly numbering from 3 to 5). One 5-fold set distinguishes the following pillars: physical well-being, financial well-being, social network, work (and/or realizing full potential), and beliefs (norms and values). One 3-pillar system distinguishes race, class, and gender; for another it is body, work, and family.
Perhaps fundamental to the use of the pillar metaphor by the Abrahamic religions, and highlighting its implied subtlety, is its use in the Old Testament (Proverbs 9:1): Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars, as helpfully discussed by Richard C. Nickels (The Seven Pillars of Wisdom) who notes their relationship to "uprights". Elsewhere they are alleged to be seven doctrinal categories that are the main supporting "pillars" of almost every religious belief system in this world (Mike Shreve, Seven Pillars of Wisdom).
Configuring pillars: The challenge with respect to any collective articulation of values or ethics, whether by religions, in the EU case, or as exemplified by Inayatullah, is how to configure the pillars and how to embody the operational order and dynamic that they imply. In a world inspired by systems thinking through which relationships between entities are of the highest significance, little attention is given to the systemic relationships between values -- and the nature of the system of ethics or values thereby constituted, despite intuitive recognition regarding the need for a system of "checks and balances". As significant exception is the work of Francisco Parra-Luna (Axiological Systems Theory: a general model of society, tripleC, 2008). What indeed makes for the "coherence" of a set of values or ethics?
Especially problematic is the selectivity represented by pillars isolated in this way, in comparison with the larger set of neglected ("un-pillared") values that may be of significance to others or, in some unforeseen manner, to systemic sustainability. This is the challenge of the values in the Human Values Project above. Which such values should be treated as irrelevant -- in the longer-term? Which values are systemically related to which other values, directly or indirectly? Should there be concern at the possibility that all values are related "globally" through systemic pathways by analogy to insights from the hypothesis of "six degrees of separation" (see E-mail Study Corroborates Six Degrees of Separation, Scientific American, 2003)?
The challenge of configuring to achieve coherence is especially problematic when the values are in some form of polarized relationship to one another, as attractors and/or repulsors (as discussed below). It is in this sense, within the pillar metaphor, how surprising it is that so little consideration is given to relationships between the pillars, whether as a topological configuration or in terms of lintels between them (thereby forming archways and gateways). On the hand, if the pillars are in some way to be comnsidered pointers or indicators to greater subtlety, then it is surely their complementary in a configuration that would reinforce this -- rather than using them to reinforce conventional hierarchical modes of thought.
In June 1991, for example, those involved in the EEC Commission efforts to articulate the new treaty details for European economic and political union were clarifying alternatives using code words including "pillars", "hats", "temples", "trees" and "ivy". The pillars were separate chapters of the treaty, the hat was the prologue creating a European union embracing three pillars. The alternatives were described in a "temple-versus-trees" debate in which the Commission argued that the treaty should look more like a "tree trunk with branches" than a "shaky temple supported by pillars". Others criticized a revision as "pillars covered in ivy", namely with largely cosmetic changes (Independent, 17 June 1991).
It would seem that the any relationship between the pillars is primarily "virtual" -- as with the values they represent -- and as with the subtleties of their coherence they (do not) define. The associated challenge with respect to the consequent strategic dilemmas engendered by such value (dis)relationship) was addressed on the occasion of the Earth Summit (Configuring Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992).
From static "pillars" to moving "feet": In previous comment on this challenge (Configuring pillars, 2008), the appropriateness of this metaphor as fundamental to strategic initiatives for the future was questioned by comparison with the array of pillars constituting Stonehenge -- presumably to be understood as a farsighted strategic array for the megalithic period. An earlier study suggested that current technology allowed such "pillars" to be represented as (budget line) "feet" -- as a means of modelling the capacity of the initiative to move forward, retaining both its stability and necessary nimbleness (Animating the Representation of Europe: visualizing the coherence of international institutions using dynamic animal-like structures, 2004). In contrast to modern use of pillars, those of Stonehenge were specifically linked ("coordinated") by lintels to form a ring -- surrounded by several concentric outer rings. It might be supposed that "values" of some kind (perhaps expressed metaphorically as distinct divinities) were associated with such pillars.
Curiously, whilst the value-based sets distinguished by such as the EU typically number 4-8 pillars, a more specific relationship to "feet" is evident in the continuing preoccupation in democratic governance between "left" and "right", whatever the factions so clustered. The minority factions might even be understood as rudimentary "feet" in their own right -- hoping to develop. However the tragedy is that the "right" foot evaluates itself as "right" and the "left" as "wrong" or misguided, whereas the "left" foot sees itself as "right" and the other foot as "wrong".
Any animal with such motor coordination challenges could only limp and trip -- to its own dangerous disadvantage in a turbulent environment. This is even more problematic in that the situation is framed in terms of the dominant or governing "foot" as being regrettably handicapped in its forward movement by an "opposition", however honourable rather than "irresponsible" (as so often claimed). The resulting "compromises" are far from the fluidity required by walking (as further discussed below) -- where it would clearly be ridiculous for one foot to blame the other for constraints on the ability to progress "forward" or "change". Ironically such a metaphor is implicit in a well-known study of multinational strategy (Rosabeth Moss Kanter, When Giants Learn To Dance, 1990).
More generally this epitomizes the challenge of any value faced with any "other" -- notably as played out under headings such as "multiculturalism" and "immigration", or "two culture" dynamics. This dysfunctional cumbersomeness might be seen as a characteristic of the unself-reflexiveness of an unconscious civilization, as argued by John Ralston Saul (The Unconscious Civilization, 1995).
Polyhedra: connecting "pillars" by "sides": An earlier paper on polyhedral global governance explored ways of "building" on the architectural metaphor by configuring the "sides" between the pillars, raising the value question that, if strategic truth is indeed many-sided, should the governance of the future necessarily be "polyhedral"? In developing the insights gained in the above-mentioned set of Encyclopedia projects, strategic dilemmas associated with the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) were configured experimentally as a polyhedral tensegrity (Configuring Globally and Contending Locally: shaping the global network of local bargains by decoding and mapping Earth Summit inter-sectoral issues, 1992). The possibility of polyhedral value configurations is explored below***.
Pillars, poles and stakes : In addition to the "pillar" metaphor, globalized society is much challenged by its degree of polarization -- with its implicit value and ethical implications. As noted by Derek Kelly (Unipolar and Multipolar World Orders Are Unworkable, 2005), some have argued for the complexities of a multipolar world order, whereas the US has argued for unipolarity (The National Security Strategy of the United States of America Report, 17 September 2002) even though it is expected that "multipolarity will come in time" (Charles Krauthammer, An American Foreign Policy for a Unipolar World, 12 February 2004). It could be fruitfully argued that the "pillars" central to the early empires of both Hammurabi and Ashoka (mentioned above) were indeed single "poles" in each case.
Metaphorically the use of "pole" of course reinforces tendencies to "polarization" -- without offering any guidance to resolution of the divisive dynamics evoked thereby. These might even be understood as taking the form of a collective bipolar disorder -- with its alternation between manic and depressive conditions.
Curiously, seemingly on a smaller scale, values are also associated with "stakes" that are understood to be variously held by "stakeholders" -- typically gathered together to resolve differences in support of collective initiatives. Stake of course comes closer to an indication of tangible or intangible property over which ownership is claimed and from which a pallisade may be constructed. The failure to use "pillar-holder" or "pole-holder" is possibly indicative of an important distinction.
Polarization in magnetic fields: Physics offers very useful visualizations of polarization in terms of magnetic fields. These helpfully highlight the contrast between attraction between similarly charged poles and repulsion between differently charged poles. These insights have been fundamental to the development of electric motors and dynamos -- themselves fundamental to industrialization and globalization. There is no question of endeavouring to "eliminate" repulsion in order to achieve universal "attraction" -- as might be said to be the value bias in society. But there would seem to be a strong case for applying such thinking to the management of the dynamics of polarization in a conflicted society.
Attractors and repulsors: The above example is of course highly simplistic in comparison with related explorations and models in physics and notably within the complexity sciences in dealing with multiple attractors and repulsors. One effort to adapt such understanding to the challenges of the global problematique and resolutique has been articulated in the following image, discussed elsewhere (Imagining the Real Challenge and Realizing the Imaginal Pathway of Sustainable Transformation, 2007). This was related to the challenge of a set of 8 "games" between "governor" and "governed", notably as characteristic of any ecosystem, whether natural or psychosocial (Cardioid Attractor Fundamental to Sustainability: 8 transactional games forming the heart of sustainable relationship, 2005).
|Figure 1: Interrelating problematique and resolutique in terms of "real" and "imaginary"|
To the extent that values may indeed be understood as "strange attractors", as argued elsewhere (Human Values as Strange Attractors: coevolution of classes of governance principles, 1993), the special challenge lies in their paradoxical relationship when in polarities. The associated cognitive twist may perhaps be usefully modelled by the Mobius strip along the lines explored in the following table discussed elsewhere (Interrelating Metaphors -- to enable a cycle of transformation between epistemological modes, 2007; Psychosocial Work Cycle: Beyond the plane of Möbius, 2007 ).
|Interrelationship between polarized attractor-repulsors|
|.||Stage 0/1||Stage 2||Stage 3/0|
Cyclic relationships: Of related interest is the possibility of visualizing the relationship between distinct attractors in terms of dynamics mapped onto the Mobius strip (Psychosocial Work Cycle: beyond the plane of Möbius, 2007). This helpfully holds paradoxical shifts in perspective without loss of continuity. There is the interesting possibility that individual or collective identity, and the coherence required of governance determined by contrary or complementary influences, might be associated with cycles most simply represented by such a strip (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007). The descriptive paradox of the one-sided Mobius strip is also indicative of the relationship between the radically contrasting descriptive modes of kataphasis and apophasis potentially relevant to any attempt to "describe" values (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity?, 2008).
Coherent encoding of differences: a Chinese perspective: Another interesting approach to polarization, developed within the Chinese worldview, is that of the 8-fold system of trigrams of the BaGua. In relation to any western set of "pillars", this might be succinctly described as the minimal formal codification of differences (between those pillars) such as to highlight degrees of polarization and complementarity -- avoiding problematic use of words and their confusing connotations (which are separately articulated through metaphor). As such it constitutes a pattern of associations of requisite systemic complexity. It is especially useful in that it has been articulated in terms of a set of the same order (namely 8) as sets of pillars (4-8) whilst clarifying the relationship between sets of smaller number (3 or 4) and polarization itself (namely 2). However, in contrast with the western case where any form of "polarization" is considered problematic in a psychosocial context, within the BaGua framework, such polarization is essential -- even vitally essential -- to the viability and sustainability of the system represented.
As a traditional system, although widely distributed in symbolic form over centuries, it is necessarily represented statically (notably as a BaGua mirror) with an implied dynamic. However, using web-based technology it is possible to explore a variety of animations (Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements, 2008). One example is shown below.
|BaGua: Later Heaven Arrangement
(note if the SWF format animations do not display automatically,
they may do so more readily in Internet Explorer)
|Rotating anti-clockwise||xx||Rotating clockwise|
Implications of unforeseen metaphors of coherence: The particular relevance to the argument here is that it illustrates how the dynamics between distinct "pillars" might be more fruitfully understood as the basis for a coherent, communicable value system. Given its importance to Chinese thinking, it merits further consideration from western perspectives in the light of the powerful arguments of Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1999). He specifically highlights the possibility that such cultures are likely to develop viable new forms of organization and technology on the basis of metaphors that are a challenge to western mindsets and habitual modes of thought. This could be of considerable significance with respect to skills in correlative thinking (A C Graham, Yin-Yang and the Nature of Correlative Thinking. Singapore, The Institute of East Asian Philosophies, 1986).
The point is well illustrated from an unexpected source. John Adams (Languages go after the money, Financial Times, 1 Sptember 2008) who notes: I am waiting for new Chinese financial instruments to emerge from the present credit crunch which have no foreign equivalent – or ready English translation. If such can be said of "tangible" financial values, what is to be expected in the case of less tangible values -- perhaps associated with the BaGua? The role of feng shui in the financial sector has already been widely remarked -- especially with respect to the architecture of financial institutions.
However, given the systemic incompetence of the institutions managing society's tangible values -- as recently demonstrated by the drama of the subprime crisis -- is it possible that this offers an excellent model of the manner in which those institutions managing society's more fundamental intangible values are both confusing themselves and misleading those whom they expect to have confidence in their expertise?
Especially challenging with respect to inhabitual metaphors is the credibility with which the connectivity they imply can be communicated and comprehended, as discussed elsewhere (Theories of Correspondences -- and potential equivalences between them in correlative thinking, 2007). This challenge may come to be most dramatically evident in the ability of some cultures to engage with less tightly ordered connectivity and to develop viable structures and processes through it -- as perhaps exemplified by the conventionally counter-intuitive success of the open source philosophy, long meaningless in terms of conventional "business models".
Value of central "emptiness": The values of "usefulness" and "profitability" of the configuration of BaGua around an empty centre (typically represented with the Tao symbol) are perhaps well illustrated for the Chinese by the classic quote from Lao Tzu (Tao Te Ching): The names that can be named are not definitive names. Naming engenders ten thousand things... Thirty spokes share the wheel's hub. It is the centre hole that makes it useful... Therefore profit comes from what is there; Usefulness from what is not there.
The paradoxical importance of such central emptiness and nothingness in relation to values has been explored elsewhere (Import of Nothingness and Emptiness through Happening and Mattering, 2008).
The most fundamental reality with respect to the universe of values is the degree of disagreement engendered between value frameworks and the manner in which this drives and justifies value-based conflict, especially through the inspiration of faith-based systems of governance. Such intractable disagreements are only feebly addressed in practice. The Global Ethic presented at the Parliament of the World's Religions (Chicago, 1993) remains a "draft" with little indication of the emergence of any articulation responsive to the value-based bloody conflicts since then -- indicative of a degree of urgency perhaps commensurate with climate change and the food crisis..
Agreement: This situation is matched by an obsessively simplistic quest for "agreement" in international discourse, epitomized by "consensus decision-making". The most evident consequence is the token nature of such agreement and the superficial initiatives to which it leads, avoiding the challenges of incompatibilities between value and ethical frameworks. This is most evident in the manner in which authorities renege on formal pledges -- as is evident in the commitments made by the G8 to developing countries. It is more tragically evident in the cynical promotion of "equality" as a fundamental value -- despite the evident pretence in the face of inequality, epitomized by the emergence of a "superclass" (David Rothkopf, Superclass: the global power elite and the world they are making, 2008) and the vain pursuit of identity values through luxury (Hari Kunzru, The expensive search for what money can never buy, The Guardian, 14 August 2008).
Incommensurability: Given the manner in which philosophy and epistemology underpin the methodology of scientific inquiry, this would suggest the need for more radical explorations of the possibility of structures built on (value) incommensurability (Beyond Method: engaging opposition in psycho-social organization, 1981; Using Disagreements for Superordinate Frame Configuration, 1992). Given the conflicts to which they give rise, the pathetic incapacity of religions to process their disagreements confirms the inadequacy of approaches dependent on "coalescence". A similar point might be made with regard to the natural and social sciences and the manner in which various "sciences" are marginalized, as noted above in the exploration of Paul Feyerabend (Against Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge, 1975). Transdisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity, to the extent they exist, may well be challenged as exercises in tokenism. Any "agreement" between disciplines is fundamentally problematic.
Problematic conflation of polarities: Understandings of "agreement" vs "disagreement" have become confused with the obsessive pursuit of "positive" and rejection of "negative" -- both polarities being simplistically conflated with that between "good" and "bad", with the latter typically demonized as "evil". This is systemically dysfunctional as argued elsewhere (Being Positive Avoiding Negativity: management challenge of positive vs negative, 2005). Problematic consequences include:
"Walking" as a metaphor: There is however a simpler "vehicle" metaphor, widely understood, that merits careful consideration as a means of responding to the seeming incommensurability of value frameworks in practice -- even when they apply in the same geopolitical or cultural context. The metaphor is the process of walking and the alternation of perspective it implies. Rescher (The Strife of Systems,, 1985), as quoted above, concludes
But the time has come to put this behind us -- not the strife, that is, which is ineliminable, but the felt need to somehow end it rather than simply accept it and take it in stride.
This said however, Rescher's argument does not necessarily preclude the possibility of new ways to take the strife "in stride". Indeed it has been argued elsewhere that new forms of transdisciplinarity may effectively emerge from "striding" (Transcending Duality as the Conceptual Equivalent of Learning to Walk, 1994; Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2007). This points to the merit of animating the value "pillars" of institutions as "feet", as noted above and illustrated elsewhere (Animating the Representation of Europe: visualizing the coherence of international institutions using dynamic animal-like structures, 2004).
Of special interest is the relationship between such movement and the alternation supposedly characteristic of democratic governance (Alternation between complementary policy conditions, 1995; Metaphors of Alternation: an exploration of their significance for development policy-making, 1984; Policy Alternation for Development, 1984).
Enantiomorphism: The cultural historian William Irwin Thompson (From Nation to Emanation; Four Cultural Ecologies of the West, 1985) has approached these issues from a quite different direction and has articulated most intriguing possibilities. For him: "Values are not objects, they are relationships. When you overlay one pattern with another, a third pattern emerges, a moiré pattern" (p. 38). He argues that: "Truth cannot be expressed in an ideology, for Truth is that which overlights the conflict of opposed ideologies....The Truth cannot be known in an ideology, but it can be embodied in an ecology; anything less does violence to human nature and to human culture." (p. 36).
In discussing the possibility of an enantiomorphic polity, Thompson argues:
In a polity that has the shape of opposites, an enantiomorphic polity, the prophetic wisdom of William Blake's 'In opposition is true friendship' will be finally understood and not just poetically....If one does have an appreciation of the phenomenology of opposites, in which we become what we hate, then a politics of compassion, as contrasted with a politics of violent conflict, begins to become a cultural possibility. (p. 37-39)
Thompson quotes an articulation of this enantiomorphic polity from E. F. Shumacher (A Guide for the Perplexed, 1978):
The pairs of opposites, of which freedom and order and growth and decay are the most basic, put tension into the world, a tension that sharpens man's sensitivity and increases his self-awareness. No real understanding is possible without awareness of these pairs of opposites which permeate everything man does...Justice is a denial of mercy, and mercy a denial of justice. Only a higher force can reconcile these opposites: wisdom. The problem cannot be solved, but wisdom can transcend it. Similarly societies need stability and change, tradition and innovation, public interest and private interest, planning and laissez-faire policies, order and freedom, growth and decay. Everywhere society's health depends on the simultaneous pursuit of mutually opposed activities or aims. The adoption of a final solution means a kind of death sentence for man's humanity and spells either cruelty or dissolution, generally both. (p. 127).
Such arguments have been further developed by Christopher Burr Jones (Gaia Futures: The Emerging Mythology and Politics of the Earth, 1989).
Value systems in conflict: Much is made of the "clash of civilizations" (Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1996) which follows from simplistic approaches to "disagreement" and naive expectations that everyone should be in "agreement" -- appropriately "encouraged" if necessary (as exemplified by European responses to the Irish "No" vote in 2008). The situation is increasingly exacerbated by widespread recognition of double standards by those promoting agreement with particular value frameworks. It is however curious that remedies are sought in terms of a single standard at a time when ethically responsible accounting systems are exploring the remedial notion of a value-based "triple bottom line", if not various forms of a "quadruple" one (as discussed in Spherical Accounting: using geometry to embody developmental integrity, 2004).
The crisis is most evident with respect to values variously attached to "environment", "peace", "democracy" and "respect". It is most dramatic with respect to the "land" or its features ("topos"), with which cultures identify, and their related sense of encroachment and threat (cf Varieties of Encroachment, 2004; Darrell Addison Posey, Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999, for the United Nations Environment Programme).
Value manipulation: The responses to this value crisis are quite extraordinarily "twisted" in their manipulative use of values:
As noted above, fundamental human values are now used as a fig leaf to disguise other agendas in a manner that makes it impossible to prove otherwise with any credibility. Some indication of this is evident in the comments of Polly Toynbee (Labour's legacy is a puzzle of moral contradictions, The Guardian, 17 June 2008) to the effect that: "The government's reluctance to challenge culturally destructive forces makes any talk of values meaningless" and "But values or a vision of the good society are meaningless without the confidence to confront cultural attitudes".
Memetic warfare: It is therefore fruitful to consider how in an emerging global knowledge society "warfare" may well take place "non violently" -- by other means as notably argued by Johan Galtung (Cultural Violence, Journal of Peace Research, 1990) . Beyond the tradition of propaganda, transmogrified into "news management" and "spin" as a basis for "information warfare", lies the as yet ill-defined but already active domain of "memetic warfare". Appropriately arrayed and deployed, values may well be the key elements in the weaponry of memetic warfare (cf Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001; Robert Jensen, The Delusion Revolution: we're on the road to extinction and in denial, AlterNet, 15 August 2008). Such warfare is partially conflated with the emerging significance of "virtual warfare" (Review of the Range of Virtual Wars: a strategic comparison with the global war against terrorism, 2005).
Moral warfare: Seemingly "ethical warfare" is poorly dissociated in the literature from the "ethics of warfare". "Moral warfare" was notably framed in a much-quoted poem by John Greenleaf Whittier, 1807–1892 (The Moral Warfare), in which the penultimate stanza reads:
Our fathers to their graves have gone;
Their strife is past, their triumph won;
But sterner trials wait the race
Which rises in their honored place;
A moral warfare with the crime
And folly of an evil time.
Whilst the literature focuses mainly on the morality of war, the importance of "moral warfare" has been stressed by the US military strategist John Boyd (Boyd and Military Strategy) who defines it as:
the destruction of the enemy's will to win, via alienation from allies (or potential allies) and internal fragmentation. Ideally resulting in the "dissolution of the moral bonds that permit an organic whole [organization] to exist. (i.e., breaking down the mutual trust and common outlook)
Value warfare: Curiously, but perhaps only too appropriately, "value warfare" (as a form of memetic warfare, in contrast with "valuing warfare" for economic reasons or military glory ) first seems to have been discussed by Robert Cooperstein (Some Notes on the Reproduction of Human Capital, 1974):
Growing up is a gradually increasing and forced addiction to value deformation. “Forced” because the dictates of simple self-preservation in the familial cold war obligates the child to adopt the weapons of his enemies who have already mastered the techniques of value warfare; "gradually increasing" because as in any cold war, the maintenance of the balance of power requires an armaments race in which each contestant must continually improve his weapons (the family attains the moment of détente when it substitutes the trading of covert hostilities for more open attacks, physical or otherwise); "addiction" since the child must swallow ever-enlarged doses of value in order to remain in the same position vis-à-vis his parents, even as it cumulatively drains away his vitality. Value deformation is a remedy which enables the child to bear the illness while aggravating it. It should be remembered that as he comes of age this war of provocations becomes less and less unilateral, which is to say that the child comes to equally characterize his adult masters.
The term "value warfare" is entirely consistent with the anticipation of faith-based communities and their governments of an ultimate battle between the forces of "good" and "evil" as part of the "end-times" scenarios of the three Abrahamic religions. These preoccupations are however more commonly discussed in the extensive literature on "spiritual warfare". This is readily framed as the basis for the ongoing Christian "crusade" against the Islamic world and the corresponding Islamic jihad against "unbelievers". Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham (advisor to a succession of presidents) and one of the USA’s most outspoken critics of Islam, indicated that he had relief workers "poised and ready" to roll into Iraq to provide for the population’s post-war physical and spiritual needs (Crusaders sending in missionaries after the Blitzkrieg, 2003; Christianizing the Enemy, 2003).
Instruments of value warfare: Cooperstein however then notes:
The implements of value warfare, first appropriated in the familial environment, will be found useful later on everywhere, including in the child's relations with his first playmates. Value spreads exponentially.
Values are effectively capable of "bending" knowledge space (as recognized in use of "bent" as a descriptor) and this may even come to characterize any definition of a value in knowledge society. Ironically, the historical association of the value "gravitas" with the phenomenon of "gravity" is perhaps indicative of such an understanding by Isaac Newton (John Noble Wilford, The Man Who Grasped The Heavens' Gravitas, The New York Times, 8 October 2004).
Following Cooperstein, the possible "implements of value warfare" calling for recognition may be readily explored through widely used military metaphors (cf Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998). These highlight the possibility of analogues of to:
The non-triviality of the use of such weaponry in "value warfare" is illustrated (at the time of writing) by the assassination as "spies" of unarmed, innocent, western women aid workers seeking to educate girls in rural Afghanistan -- an "unquestionably worthy" initiative by "universal" standards -- against the values upheld in that area by the Taliban, thereby demonstrated to be totally "unworthy", unreasonable, and therefore only "worthy" of elimination.
Understanding of how values and ethics are shared has long echoed assumptions regarding the appropriateness of hierarchical patterns of organization. Ethical frameworks are articulated by the few, on behalf of the many, in the expectation that the many will subscribe without question to the standards structured in this way. This is typical of most declarations of rights, ethics and credos exemplified, at the time of writing, by the European attitudes to the Irish "No" vote. It is such prefabricated value sets that people and groups may "have" and "uphold". Such understanding does not accord with the above-mentioned insights of Chris Mowles regarding the dynamics of value emergence and sharing in operational contexts in practice.
A major difficulty is of course the manner in which defenders of any set of values typically perceive themselves as responding to the sound of a "different drummer" in the words of Henry David Thoreau, "however measured or far away". The phrase was echoed by M. Scott Peck (The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, 1987) in contrast with his study of the "people of the lie" (People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil, 1983). The difficulty is that it is "others", upholding different values, that then tend to be perceived as "people of the lie".
It is only then that "pillars" are understood to need "reinforcement" by connecting them together in practice to form pallisades and fortresses to defend a value system and a way of life. It is in this sense that the emergence of "gated communities" may be understood as having their value analogues, as argued elsewhere (Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004).
Compatibility of different value sets: Especially challenging are situations when both the number of values and the terms used to describe them are different. How then to "collapse" one set or "expand" the other to achieve a basis for comparison? This is even more challenging when the number in the set has some sacred significance. Typically those of one culture will emphasize 5 values (as with the Pillars of Islam) as distinct from 6 or 7 values favoured by some other belief system (Representation, Comprehension and Communication of Sets: the Role of Number, 1978). The situation is more complicated where there may be 30 values, as in many declarations, without it being clear how they might be clustered for comparison with some smaller set. Even more challenging is the fact that the smaller the set the more likely that much of the significance of the terms used will be implict (even elusively paradoxical) rather than explicit, as discussed elsewhere (Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980)
Shared standards: It is therefore relevant to note the insights of David Grewal (Network Power: the social dynamics of globalization, 2008) as articulated in an interview for Policy Innovations (May 2008):
I argue that globalization can best be understood as the rise to dominance of shared “standards” underlying newly transnational and international networks in areas including media, trade, language, and even some forms of culture. These new global networks link people together as never before -- but they also generate problems of insider/outsider dynamics that raise challenging ethical questions, for to become part of a global network often means adopting a dominant standard at the expense of alternative ones that could mediate the same activity. I devote a significant part of the book to examining these ethical issues, including trying to consider what we owe to people left out of new global networks and whether (and how) we should try to destabilize a standard that has become dominant and threatens to eliminate local and less powerful -- but nevertheless deeply valued -- attachments of one kind or another. It is in this ethical assessment of the new power at work in global networks that I try to consider what a "fairer globalization" might look like....
Dominant standard: Problematic in the above statement is the notion of a "dominant standard" in a context in which many distinct global networks each perceive their own standards as more fundamental, more dominant, or worthy of being so -- through a selective process of self-appreciation quite analogous to the operation of email spam filtering ("white lists" and "black lists").
The peculiar characteristic of global society is that many can hold this view -- hence the violent "clash of civilizations" and the degree of alienation from supposedly global standards that may well not be clearly articulated or unambiguously understood. Ironically significant progress with respect to global civilization may only prove possible when efforts towards a "global standard" are abandoned -- as proved to be the case with the "gold standard".
With the current approach to such matters, it would appear that the probability of universal agreement on a set of values (of a non-token nature) is equivalent to that of everyone being persuaded to speak Esperanto.
Robustness through triangulation and symmetry: The interesting question is the extent to which the integrity of triangulated value frameworks is amenable to being shared within a network that is ordered in some compatible manner. Richer networks also function by triangulation and acquire their robustness through triangulation. This suggests that the greater the degree of structural isomorphism between value networks and social networks, then the greater the extent to which values will be shared.
An earlier paper argued that networks achieve higher degrees of robustness and empowerment to the extent that they incorporate a degree of symmetry -- notably as reflected in electronic communication patterns (Polyhedral Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization and global governance, 2008). This suggests that a corresponding argument could be made for configurations of value and ethical frameworks. How would the experience of a "robust" set of values or ethics contrast with one less robust according to such criteria?
What might such a polyhedral configuration of values or ethics look like -- and how might one engage with it meaningfully? Should "ethical charters" benefit from such representations? Venturing further, is it possible that any reconciliation between "incommensurable" value sets based on 5-fold and 6-fold symmetry is only to be found in even more complex topologies (Hyperspace Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects, 2003)? The exploration would certainly be valuable, given the violence that is engendered by such apparent incompatibilities. It is of particular interest that the Yi Jing pattern, seemingly emphasizing the 6-fold, is recognized in Chinese culture as basic to the 5-fold pattern of the Wu Xing (Five Phases or Five Elements). This is well represented diagrammatically in a study by B. Svarog (The basic symmetry of I Ching).
The question is whether this is a key to understanding what enables a set of values to "take" in contrast to the very conventional checklists of ethical principles in extant declarations. The need for innovation in the structure of ethical articulations has been argued elsewhere (A Singable Earth Charter, EU Constitution or Global Ethic? 2007; Structuring Mnemonic Encoding of Development Plans and Ethical Charters using Musical Leitmotivs, 2001; Structure of Declarations challenging traditional patterns, 1993; Structure of concluding declarations, 1995; Distinguishing Levels of Declarations of Principles, 1980).
Beyond value checklists: As intimated above, the call here is for innovation in the structuring of sets of values and ethical principles beyond the conventional checklist. Reasons may be summarized as ensuring :
Problematic compatibility between value sets: Given the fundamental nature of such value sets, the challenge might be described as one of "sacred geometry". In other words how are value sets of varying numbers of elements to be related? Examples for consideration include:
Curiously, in the haste to impose any given value set, it would seem that few marvel at the variety of understandings of fundamental values and the challenge they pose to ensuring a degree of integrity to their relationship -- especially when many of them may apply together in the same geopolitical region.
Folding and enfolding value configurations: Since these are indeed understood to be fundamental, there is a need to understand how they "collapse" into smaller sets, then implying what is explicated in larger sets. The challenge of the articulation as a smaller set is that verbal articulations are variously understood and the subtleties articulated in larger sets are lost. But equally the specific language used in the larger sets for particular audiences may alienate some who prefer implicit formulations enabling interpretation "between the lines".
"Changing gear" for appropriate "transmission": However the technical challenge is to provide a medium in which people can explore for themselves the relationships between values variously articulated. Such a medium should enable people to get a feel for the various possibilities. Ironically this might be compared to the capacity to change gear in a vehicle -- remembering that heavy duty trucks have a large number of gears. This metaphor is potentially relevant to the challenge of ensuring a degree of "transmission" through a cognitive gearbox into strategic movement, as discussed below. An alternative metaphor is that of changing tuning systems in music in order to enable dialogue in different contexts. (*** birdcages)
Such metaphors recall the work of Gareth Morgan (Images of Organization, 1986) in describing the 8 metaphors through which organizations tend to be viewed: Machine, Organism, Brain, Culture, Political System, Psychic Prison, Flux and Transformation, and Instrument of Domination. In this light, operating in any one of these metaphors of course reveals its own truth. What insights emerge from considering a set of values through one or other of these metaphors? What understanding facilitates the art of shifting between metaphors, as with the art of gear shifting in a racing car?
Value "homes", "shelters" and "accommodation": But of particular interest here is the vehicle metaphor ("machine") discussed below and the house/home metaphor. With respect to the latter, as implied above, a set of pillars does not make for a sheltered environment -- except in the most clement conditions. Understood as a home, the challenge of designing a set of values or ethics is somewhat analogous to that of constructing a shelter. In terms of Christopher Alexander (The Timeless Way of Building, 1979), it is the challenge of eliciting the subtle quality of a "good place to be" for which he developed a "pattern language" (A Pattern Language: towns, buildings, construction, 1977). Elsewhere this has been used experimentally as a template for the elaboration of patterns more relevant to the psycho-social challenge (5-fold Pattern Language, 1984).
Participative design: It could be argued that to the extent that value sets are articulated in ways other than checklists, their architecture fails significantly to explore geometric possibilities of polyhedra that might better respond to the challenges identified above. With his commitment to design, Alexander himself has gone on to focus on the Nature of Order: an essay on the art of building and the nature of the universe (2003-2004) -- presumably of relevance to future consideration of the structuring of value sets. Such possibilities can indeed be best appreciated through visualization. ***
It is readily argued that value frameworks have been extensively appropriated by those of legalistic disposition. Hence the conventional format of declarations of values by bodies claiming authority and a mandate to do so. In this sense value frameworks are essentially static and designed to be so -- as emblematic of the status quo. The European Convention on Human Rights is, for example, proudly referred to as “the jewel in the crown” of the Council of Europe. By contrast, in the case of organizations and strategic initiatives, efforts may be made to get "buy in" to any articulation of values from those expected to work together -- often through a process of refinement of the set of values, perhaps as an ethical charter.
This may be understood metaphorically as designing a "home" for the initiative -- perhaps one to reflect its status and standing through appropriate design elements, namely a home of which its inhabitants can be proud. Christopher Alexander has promoted a process of participative design (The Oregon Experiment, 1975), subsequently an inspiration to open source software development. It might be asked when such a process had been explored with respect to the design of ethical charters or value-based constitutuioins. But, to the extent that the challenge of the future is one of complex turbulent and changing conditions, it may be far more appropriate to consider the value structure as a vehicle that can be suitably reconfigured in response to those conditions -- to enable them to be appropriately navigated.
Formative models: Returning to the formative influence of kites and aerodynamics on the thinking of Wittgenstein (Susan G. Sterrett, Wittgenstein Flies a Kite: a story of models of wings and models of the world, 2005), consideration could be fruitfully given to reversing the direction of influence. Suppose that "conceptual models" and their value equivalents were to be understood as designs for vehicles for the navigation of knowledge space -- through the emerging knowledge society. An intuitive recognition of this is to be found in the phrase "flying a kite" (as with a "launching a trial balloon"). Indeed projects and hypotheses are criticized metaphorically with phrases such as "it wont fly" or "it did not get off the ground". The cultural context in which academics endeavour to design and "fly" an extraordinary variety of models might then be delightfully caricatured by the title of the cult movie Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.
Models as "vehicles": More intriguing even is the possibility that, for some spiritual and religious traditions, the value frameworks that are so fundamental to their disciplines of meditation may indeed be better understood as vehicles. Effectively the associated sets of categories -- exceedingly detailed in the case of Buddhism for example -- are more analogous to the control systems of a multidimensional vehicle, as argued elsewhere (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002). Buddhism explicitly distinguishes between a greater and a lesser "vehicle", in Mahayana and Hinayana respectively (as discussed in Noonautics Four modes of travelling and navigating the knowledge "universe"? 2006). This recognition has the great merit of establishing the contemporary relevance of traditions (whose insights are often disparaged), as well as offering insights into how value vehicles can be usefully "driven" -- whether or not other driving styles are to be preferred. Sets of value "pillars" might then be understood as crude approximations to (and variants of) the value set of the Eightfold Way -- or its analogues in other traditions (such as the Beatitudes of Christianity) .
The possibility is consistent with the commitment of Arthur Young (designer of the Bell helicopter) to exploring the possibilities of a "psychopter" as the "winged self" (The Bell Notes: a journey from physics to metaphysics, 1979; Geometry of Meaning, 1976/1984). Is there a case for exploring how the so-called "jewel in the crown" of the Council of Europe (namely the European Convention on Human Rights) might be understood as the collective equivalent of the "diamond vehicle" of Vajrayana Buddhism -- a metaphor otherwise explored elsewhere (Patterning Archetypal Templates of Emergent Order: implications of diamond faceting for enlightening dialogue, 2002)?
The vehicle metaphor is especially intriguing given the psychoactive (if not hypnotic) fascination of a rotating wheel -- to be understood in this context as metaphorically indicative of a value as an attractor. It might be asked to what degree the development of wheels, and wheeled vehicles -- so fundamental to industrialized society -- was associated with the development of a form of cognitive disciplines in relation to such psychoactive fascination. The question is then whether the challenge of configuring sets of values could be explored in terms of the design of new forms of cognitive vehicle appropriate to the navigation of the emergent knowledge society -- through appropriate management of the cognitive fascination of those attractors/repulsors.
Cognitive "spiders" and "feet": Curiously prominence is given to the "web" metaphor as fundamental to the networks of knowledge society, and to the use of search engine "spiders" (or web crawlers) to identify what has been caught (as discussed in From Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere: global configuration of hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation, 1996). There is therefore a case for exploring the navigational challenges of the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Way in terms of the coordination challenges of arachnid locomotion. This is especially so given the arguments by NASA for spidernaut robotics (Nabil I. Alshurafa and Justin T. Harmon, Artificial spider: eight-legged arachnid and autonomous learning of locomotion, Unmanned Systems Technology, 2006).
This argument extends that above regarding the merit of representing value-based strategic "pillars" as "feet" -- through suitable animations. In the case of the 8-fold BaGua, it is far from irrelevant to this argument that enacting the principles is intimately related to the practice of a distinctive martial art, Baguazhang. More generally it might be argued that the use of katas, choreographed patterns of movement common to both the Japanese performing and martial arts, imply distinct forms of "hold" -- perhaps usefully to be associated with those required for (spider-like) navigation of cognitive reality according to the principles of the Eightfold Way.
Aeronautics and noonautics: Such cognitive possibilities in relation to the use of value frameworks have been explored through other metaphors. As an extension of conventional vehicles, the transition from aeronautics to astronautics might be fruitfully understood as having cognitive implications (as argued with respect to Wittgenstein). Such possibilities have been discussed elsewhere (Entering Alternative Realities -- Astronautics vs Noonautics: isomorphism between launching aerospace vehicles and launching vehicles of awareness, 2002; Towards an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe from astronautics to noonautics? 2006). To the extent that websites are designed to reflect sets of values, often explicitly so, as distinct features of knowledge society they too might be fruitfully reframed as vehicles (Transforming Static Websites into Mobile "Wizdomes": enabling change through intertwining dynamic and configurative metaphors, 2007).
"Identity pods": The possibility that the iPod/iPhone generation, and its successors, may have an entirely different relationship to values follows from that exploration of "wizdomes". The iPod has even been defined in value terms by Steven Levy (The Perfect Thing: how the iPod shuffles commerce, culture, and coolness, 2006). It might then be understood from the user's perspective as a kind of "identity pod". Within it is defined the identity of the person as in any good "organizer" -- to the degree that they may render identity cards obsolete. Through it the interface with other electronic and social resources is specified -- enabling navigation anywhere in knowledge society.
Typically such devices may contain iconic images defining symbolic relationships with individuals, places and other valued representations. They may provide for access to sacred texts and could well be used as a "prayer wheel" in celebration of some set of values to which access could be offered as a menu item -- or accessed automatically on a value-a-day basis, with mnemonic musical accompaniment. Sets of values, and their representation in music and song, might even be downloaded -- as signature tunes. Especially in their expression in song with which people identify, values may already be more widely understood in a visual or sonified form. As an electronic equivalent to cocooning, their use might be understood as enabling a "value cocoon" -- in a dynamically gated "value community" (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities, 2004). What more might be expected of a value-based vehicle for identity?
Ironically, given the interactive video games that may be played on such devices, any BaGua animation could have dynamic features resembling such games in many respects. As with the older game requiring the coordination to move a ball of mercury within a labyrinth of obstacles, an electronic version could involve control of movement in relation to the attraction/repulsion dynamics of the 8 "pillars" in the BaGua configuration. This could be understood as reflecting the skillset required of cognitive fusion as well as that of attention management and meditation -- echoing the complex challenges of spider locomotion and the Eightfold Way..
Metaphors as "vehicles": This approach to reframing value frameworks through metaphor highlights the unexplored potential role of metaphor in enabling the values we might live by (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By, 1980). Metaphors, as poets have demonstrated down the centuries, can themselves be understood as vehicles (cf Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991).
The question is whether there are possibilities for designing such vehicles in new ways -- as "all terrain vehicles -- to respond to the challenges of navigiating the cognitive terrain of the knowledge society of the 21st century. If values, as paradoxical attractors/repulsors, are to be understood in some way as the cognitive "wheels" of such vehicles, how are they to be understood as "engaging" with that terrain?
This clearly has implications both for strategic thinking and for engendering psychoactive engagement with the concerns of governance. Within the vehicle metaphor, it might be argued that current thinking involves models with many "spinning wheels" but little capacity to engage effectively with the terrain. In that sense governance might be said to be effectively "bogged down" in mud or sand.
Whilst metaphor is widely used in politics, its appropriate use in policy-making is less appreciated. If it is possible that the coherence of a viable set of metaphors, capable of enabling a coherent sets of strategies, is best understood and communicated through metaphor, then attention to the possibility is appropriate at a time when fragmentation is widely acknowledged (Developing a Metaphorical Language for the Future, 1994). The insight of Kenneth Boulding (Ecodynamics; a new theory of social evolution, 1978) might then be suitably adapted to global ethics and value sets:
Our consciousness of the unity of self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of group, organization, department, discipline or science. If personification is a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors -- we might be one ourselves.
For further updates on this site, subscribe here